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The Esbats

Every Full Moon, Witches gather in covens, or solitary, according to the Rede to honor the Goddess. The phases of the moon have great influence over what kind of magick we do, and the Full Moon is the Goddess in her Mother aspect. The Full Moon, and the three days preceeding, are a most powerful time to work magick, but an Esbat is essentially a time to worship.

Here is a sample Esbat ritual for a solitary witch:

TOOLS & MATERIALS NEEDED

Note on tools and materials -- if you do not own one or indeed any of these items, DO NOT PANIC! They are merely props in a ceremony that, done properly, requires nothing but your presence, and that of your mind and heart.

1 white candle, lit
Small bowl for water
small bowl for salt
Wand or athame
Burning incense
Chalice of wine, water, juice, or milk (i.e. any natural beverage)
One piece of bread, biscuit, rice cake, cracker, etc (any grain-based snack sized food item)*
God and Goddess symbols (optional)
Matches/Lighter in case the candle blows out (especially important if you are doing this outside or near an open window)

CASTING THE CIRCLE / THE INVOCATIONS

With your wand or athame, draw a circle around yourself and your altar. Traditionally, the circle is nine feet in diameter. Personally, I have never had the luxury of that kind of working space, and have noticed no ill effects on my workings. ;) The circle may be drawn in salt, sand, chalk, string, tape, or in your mind -- which is easier to clean up. You will draw the circle three times, once on the ground, once at waist level, and once above your head, chanting as you do
"As above so below...as without, so within..as the universe, so my soul..." (Circle of the Comsic Muse, by Lady Mari)
Stand in the center of the circle, facing your altar (which traditionally faces north), hands outstretched upwards, and say "Here is the boundary of the circle. Naught but love shall enter in. Naught but love shall emerge from within." (Scott Cunningham)

Face East and say, "From the East, I call forth Air, which is Clear Thought. Come forth, Air!" (If the incense is not yet lit, light it at this point)
Face South and say, "From the South, I call forth Fire, which is Vital Spirit. Come forth, Fire!" (If the candle is not lit, light it at this point)
Face West and say, "From the West, I call forth Water, which is Intuitive Wisdom. Come forth, Water!" Dip your fingers into the bowl of water, and flick into the air.
Face North and say, "From the North, I call forth Earth, which is Grounded Strength. come forth, Earth!" Dip your fingers into the bowl of salt, and taste some.
say, "The circle is cast and we are (I am) beyond the worlds, beyond the bounds of time, where night and day, birth and death, joy and sorrow meet as one."

The following invocation of the Goddess is from of Witches by Janet Thompson. The God invocation is my own, based on her form. It is written with a female in mind. Although traditionally only the Goddess is "drawn down," a solitary male witch may wish to reverse the words "descend" and "assist and be with" -- and substitute "Priest" for "Priestess."

Stand with arms raised, and say:
"I call the Mighty Mother of us all
bringer of life and love.
By life and love do I ask thee to descend upon your Priestess."

"I call the Lofty Father of us all
master of earth and spirit.
By earth and spirit do I ask thee to assist and be with your Priestess."

CHARGE AND/OR WORKING

There are many many Charges of the Goddess out there. Doreen Valiente has a beautifully poetic version, and Silver Ravenwolf has written it in story form. Lady Mari (Maria Kay Simms) has a different Charge for every esbat of the year. There are also a number of Charges of the God. I encourage all fledgling witches to read as many Charges as you can, and choose one that fits your style.
This is also the point in the esbat ceremony where you would normally do any magical workings you might have planned. Not every esbat includes a working, but any spell is appropriate, except perhaps a banishing or binding spell (best performed in the Dark of the Moon).
In lieu of a formal Charge or spell, many witches prefer to use this time for meditation.

LIBATIONS
Obviously these are more fun with a coven, but offering gifts to the Gods has been practiced since religion began.
Hold the chalice in both hands, raised and say, "I thank the Goddess for the gift of wine (water/juice/milk), and I drink this in Her honor." Drink half of what is in the chalice.
Hold your bread (grain-based food offering) in both hands and say, "I thank the Goddess for the gift of bread, and I eat this in her honor." Eat half of the bread.
The remaining bread and wine will be your gift to the Goddess. If you can, bury them outside near running water or the roots of a tree. The next best option is to use them as household plant food. However you dispose of them, do so ritually -- don't just toss them in a disposal, try and find a use for them.

OPENING THE CIRCLE

Pick up your wand or athame, and stand in the center of your circle.
Say, "Oh Lord and Lady of Light who have attended me this night, I thank you and bid you farewell. Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again."
Stand facing East, say, "O Element of Air, for your aid to clear thinking, I thank you. Hail, farewell, and blessed be!"
Stand facing South, say, "O Element of Fire, for vitality of spirit, I thank you. Hail, farewell, and blessed be!"
Stand facing West, say, "O Element of Water, for depth of inner knowing, I thank you. Hail, farewell, and blessed be!"
Stand facing North, say, "O Element of Earth, for giving me strength, I thank you. Hail, farewell, and blessed be."

As you "undraw" the circle (reversing your steps from when you cast it), say these words:
"I will love and harm none
I will live, love, die, and live again
I will meet, remember, know, and embrace once more
For the Free Will of All
And with Harm to None
As I will, It is not done, So mote it be!"

Finally, stand in the center again and say "The circle is open, but unbroken."

You are done!

*In my online cookbook, I have a wonderful recipe for Spiral Herb Bread. Keep in mind that it is a yeast bread, and will take at least 5 hours out of your day. However, it is not only delicious, but herbs and spirals have long been a part of pagan lore. the recipe is located HERE.


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